Sheila Ransom

Akwesasne Mohawk Nation

About

Sheila Ransom is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation in northern New York State. She learned about the preparation of materials and weaving techniques from her godmother and other master basketmakers, and it is a tradition she is proud to pass on to others. Basketmaking, in Sheila’s experience, provides a way for her community to come together in a social environment to learn, teach skills, communicate, nurture each other, and share knowledge among different generations. She sees it as an important activity that facilitates protecting traditional ways of life and Mohawk culture. The materials she works with are black ash and sweetgrass, although climate change and invasive species are currently threatening the survival of black ash trees in her ancestral territories.

In 2021, Sheila’s Pope Basket was acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and is on display at the Renwick Gallery. This basket was made to honor Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), a Mohawk woman and a basketmaker, who was made a saint by the Catholic Church in 2012. A replica of this basket was gifted to the Pope at that time in honor of the canonization. Sheila has multiple baskets on display at numerous museums throughout the United States and Canada, as well as at the Akwesasne Cultural Center Museum and teaches classes to members of her community.

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